Top Tips for Improving Mental Maths Skills for the UCAT ANZ Quantitative Reasoning Section

UCAT Section Advice

2020-03-15

The Quantitative Reasoning (QR) section of the UCAT ANZ assesses your ability to solve numerical problems quickly. Due to the limited time available (36 questions in 24 minutes), having good mental maths skills is essential for mastering this section.

Here, we present five top tips for refining your mental maths skills:

1. Make use of the front-end strategy in your UCAT ANZ revision:

In primary school, most students are taught to start from the right and progress to the left when adding and subtracting numbers. While this works perfectly well for adding and subtracting on paper, it is more intuitive and easier to go from left to right when computing mentally.

For example, when you add 38 to 93, you can add 30 to 90 to get 120, then add 8 to 3 to get 11, then add the two sums to get 131.

You can also use the front-end strategy for subtraction. For subtraction, if you were to solve 285 - 127, you can subtract 100 from 285 to get 185, then subtract 20 from 185 to get 165, then finally subtract 7 from 165 to get 158.

There are some variations to front-end strategies so you can use the approach that suits you the best. 

While this left-to-right strategy may seem like going through extra steps at first, you will soon be able to solve such equations in a second with some practice.

This is a powerful time-saving strategy for two or three digit numbers, but for four digits or more you may find that using a calculator is faster and less error-prone.

2. Multiply by parts in your UCAT ANZ revision:

Many students will scratch their heads and reach out for their calculators if they had a question where you had to multiply 4 by 87. However, if you break this into parts by multiplying 4 x 80 and 4 x 7, and then adding the results (320 and 28), you will soon get the answer (348).

3. Familiarise yourself with UCAT ANZ basic fractions and percentages:

½ is 50%, ¼ is 25% and ⅕ is 20%. Too easy for you right? But can you convert ⅞ to percentages or 4% to fractions off the top of your head? 

While you should certainly not sweat yourself over memorising conversion of complex fractions and percentages, knowing common conversions can save you valuable time while sitting your UCAT ANZ QR section.

For example, you can familiarise yourself with the percentage equivalent of all fractions with denominators of 6, 8, 9 and 12. Some larger denominators can be particularly useful too.

For example, if you know that 1/25 is 4%, you can easily work out that 3/25 is 12% and that 28% is 7/25.

4. Estimation can be very useful in the UCAT ANZ:

When you face a more tricky question involving larger numbers or decimal points, you should definitely use the on-screen calculator. However, when you manipulate more complex numbers on the calculator, you become more vulnerable to making mistakes, for example, adding an extra zero or missing out a decimal point.

In such cases, rounding individual numbers and estimating the solution can be very useful. It gives you a rough 'feel' for the answer, which acts as an extra checking point. Since the UCAT ANZ QR section is limited in time and you will likely not have time for double-checking, this tip can save you from losing marks unnecessarily.

5. Practise, practise and practise the UCAT ANZ:

Just as you cannot learn how to play golf or drive a car by reading a book, simply reading about the smart tips above won’t automatically improve your mental maths skills. 

To attain procedural fluency, you need to apply these tips on a myriad of practice sessions to really make them yours. To get started, there are plenty of free websites that provide as many basic arithmetic practice questions as you need. 

Once you feel more confident, you should try questions that closely resemble the real UCAT ANZ QR section. You will be glad to hear that our UCAT ANZ Online Course features thousands of QR questions that get you fully prepared to ace the QR section, as well as other sections.

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Do you need help with preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Please don’t worry, head over to our Online UCAT ANZ Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through this whole process.

We provide you with extensive video tutorials, a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 21 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams and question walkthroughs, as well as performance feedback.

If you need more help, we also offer Live Interactive UCAT classes that includes 13 hours of teaching from expert instructors and tailored homework.

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